From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.

English

young theosophists

From: Katinka Hesselink
  To: young theosophists
  Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003 4:26 AM
  Subject: [Young Theosophists] mentally challenged

  Hi,

  In our lodge the following question came up. Maybe you all  have opinions on it?

Are mentally challenged people in general more spiritual  than us?

  Katinka Hesselink

  =====
  Katinka Hesselink
  -----------------------------
  -Those who observe, learn, a whole life long.
  -Wie observeert, leert , een heel leven lang.
  -----------------------------
  http://www.katinkahesselink.net

   Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 19:39:51 +0000
   From: "nathan voirol"
Subject: Re: mentally challenged

I would think that your question about mentally challenged persons would depend entirely on the specific person in question. Are you talking about mentally handicapped? If so, while growing up, I spent a lot of time at a friend's house whose big brother was mentally handi capped. He was adopted into the family while quite young. I think that his mother had used drugs while pregnant with him. As a result his brain has stunted growth. I can't say what his spiritual "level" is, but his intellect has been seriously impaired. I do personally draw a line between spirituality and intellectual capacity. I think the two are separately functioning elements; one being rooted in buddhi, and the other being rooted in manas. You could have an "unspiritual" handicapped person just as easily as you can have an "unspiritual" person with an exceptional or average mind.

If by mentally challenged you mean not handicapped, but of diminished ability, than I would say the same thing. I can think of a man I met a few times who was both poor and illiterate. He could hardly write his one name. But there was something positively regal about his character. I preferred him greatly over the many business executives I had to shuttle around.I am wondering if your question has something to due with the idea that certain persons are born into hard circumstances to burn off karma. I tend not to like that idea. We don't know anyone's circumstance, including our own. Nature has granted us the gift of blindness.
[......]
nate

   Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 04:41:31 -0000
   From: "Truth Collins
Subject: the challenge of pinpointing it

Mentally challenged?  I don't know.  There are so many things about the people that I have met that make them different from everyone else that I have met.  The situations of people, mentally challenged or not, are all different.  There are simply so many factors, from environment to parents to differences of mental challenges, or individual people, etc...

People are still proving me wrong.  There is plenty of evidence that I still have a lot to learn about pinpointing who people are.

Truth

   Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 07:56:44 -0800
   From: "nigel griffiths"
Subject: RE: the challenge of pinpointing it

I think the intriguing answer to this question is whether certain forms of "mental illness" are in fact really the breakdown between theconsciousness and the unconscious.

I personally know of 'mentally challenged' people who have been 'locked up' and met with people declared insane who are found talking Egyptian i.e. who have regressed 'or broken through' to a previous life or incarnation. Some have an incredible detailed knowledge of  other time periods and civilisations - not what you would expect from a 'luny'.

If you look at the artistic world, some of the greatest artists have been on the fringe of sanity. Some - it can be argued find that they are seriously challenged as to which is reality - the conscious
or the unconscious. The top artists I have met (I am a musician) I have found to be very spiritual - just through personal experience. Many feel that through their music they transgress the conscious and are perhaps tuned into a different level of awareness and sensation.

The so-called 'mental breakdown' seems in some cases to give individuals access to the 90% of the brain the is supposedly not used. It seems, in Blavatsky's terms, to break down the animal consciousness which shuts out the other eternal reality. Some argue that the 'fall of man' is this
loss of universal awareness which you only get back through death or perhaps, mental illness.

nigel

   Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 15:12:42 -0800 (PST)
   From: John Key
Subject: mentally challenged & gay,bisexual,lesbian
spirituality

I believe that in some cases a mentally challenged person has a better opportunity to be more spiritual because of not having the ability to use the intellect to filter out certain spiritual inclinations.

Also a gay, bisexual or lesbian is just as able to be spiritual as a heterosexual.

   Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2003 08:55:12 -0800
   From: "nigel griffiths"
Subject: RE: mentally challenged

It is difficult to know what you mean by a mental level of 2-3 year old human. I have read that children up to as late as five years are very 'spiritual' in the sense that their consciousness has not yet kicked in and cut them off from the 'dreamworld' they came from. Young children are believed to be highly telepathic, a talent that disappears as age and the shutter of consciousness descends. If this 'shutter' does not descend, then a child who for us is 'mentally challenged' may well continue in this different, original, state (are the madmen the one in the asylum or the ones outside?). The training of the Yogis as far as I can see a  training of the mind to 'unshutter' the consciousness and revive those senses that get shut off.
 
If you believe in reincarnated spirits then surely a spirit if it transends into a damaged, non-functional body is hardly going to be damaged itself. It is clearly the physical, animal body which has functional problems when 'mentally challenged'. The spirit just has a different karmic challenge to face.
 
Any thoughts?

Sent: Friday, February 21, 2003 8:52 PM
To: Young-Theosophists@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [Young Theosophists] mentally challenged &
gay,bisexual,lesbian spiritual...


Hey all,

I tend to be pretty quiet, but this is an interesting question.  I recently went to a lecture that talked about the different levels of a person, from the body to the Atman.  It was suggested that an animal has evolved to the point of the Kama, which is why they don't have the reasoning faculties, etc of humans.  And since most animals are at the mental level of about a 2 or 3 yr old human (like some mentally challenged people, I would think it could be argued that the mentally challenged may only be in touch up to the Kama or the Manna.

(I don't necessarily agree with this argument, just thought I'd throw it out there).

Peace,

Scot

   Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 09:53:51 -0000
   From: "Truth Collins
Subject: Re: mentally challenged & gay,bisexual,lesbian
spiritual...

Hi Scott.  That is an interesting possibility.  I don't agree with that either though, unless it is kama + manas (kama-manas), when talking in theosophical terms since kama-manas is the least advanced that human beings can be(I think that all people have minds).  People may be said to be mindless when their personalities are on autopilot and they are basically zombies; the walking dead who we pass daily on the streets.   It may be true for some people that they are very beastial in there behavior, and there is a wide variety to this.  I think that there is always a selfconscious mind present in us human beings though.  Selfconsciousness is the entrylevel into a human form, I think.  I think that animals are selfconscious too.  I think that I notice a difference though.  I will wait to learn more about animals before going on about this since I don't know much about it, beyond my inner thoughts and guesses.  My friend _______ teaches mentally challenged people, who he describes as children in adult bodies.  He has actually taught some of them how to read, which some other people fomerly considered impossible.  The process is very slow.  He encourages them by giving them treats, and playing fun reading games with them.  Several of the mentally challenged people that he has worked with are between 40 and 50 years old.  _______ described them as behaving much like two to six year olds and somewhere around preschool to 1st grade level.  You have all probably heard people use phrases like, "girl in a womans body" or "boy in a mans body."  It is unlikely that many of the people that ________ works with will ever live on their own.  They have to be taken care of all their lives. Who's to say, the history of these mentally challenged people that _______ has been teaching, however slowly.  "Are they more spiritual?"  Maybe if they haven't lost their childlike innocence.  I am going to stop here and continue in another message

This seems to be another of the unknown mental challenge.  It has not been made clear as to what mental challenge.  Maybe it's better that way.

Truth

P.S. There is also "woman in a mans body" and vice versa.  You have all probably heards those too.  Maybe some of you have more to say about the second question that was mentioned.

   Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 00:32:35 -0800 (PST)
   From: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re:Re: mentally challenged

Hi all,

I guess the question on the mentally handicapped really comes back to the question: what is spirituality?

At the moment I see three posibilities:
1) Spirituality is to be (or become) wise like the Buddha.I think we will all agree that is not possible for animals or mentally handicapped people.
2) Spirituality is to reach beyond your present limitations and grow ethically, have peak experiences etc. I suppose this is possible for almost any being, though I have a hard time imagining a tree to go beyond it's current limitations. Or have ethics at all. Peak experiences seem to be accessible to people of all backgrounds and ethical "levels". (talking Wilberian now).
3) Spirituality is to reach a state of innocence (like Truth mentions).

The problem with the last definition is that it does not differentiate between the kind of innocence where there is an empty mind because one has realized the limitations of the mind and only uses the mind when one has to (as opposed to a chattering mind) on the one hand and the kind of innocence that a mentally challenged person may have where the mind is hardly activated at all. I think there is a big difference between being able to learn to read - and being able to use reading as a means of
obtaining information about the world, thoughts, that sort of thing - and be conditioned by what you read.

One more thought: it is possible to look at mentally challenged people and think they are a child's mind in an adult body. It is also possible to say: the mind is there, but it cannot manifest through the body, because the instrument is flawed. I don't know which it is, but it fundamentally changes the perspective, I think.

Katinka

=====
Katinka Hesselink
-----------------------------
-Those who observe, learn, a whole life long.
-Wie observeert, leert , een heel leven lang.
-----------------------------
http://www.katinkahesselink.net

   Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 00:38:44 -0800 (PST)
   From: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re: RE: mentally challenged

Hi Nigel and others,

Does this mean we should totally give up our minds in order to be more spiritual?

Katinka

=====
Katinka Hesselink
-----------------------------
-Those who observe, learn, a whole life long.
-Wie observeert, leert , een heel leven lang.
-----------------------------
http://www.katinkahesselink.net

   Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 00:57:08 -0800 (PST)
   From: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re:Re: mentally challenged

Hi Nathan,

My question has nothing to do with Karma. Though the subject did come up in relation to karma as well, in our lodge.

For me it is matter of:
1) what relationship is there between the state of the body and spiritual growth?
2) what is spiritual growth to begin with (definition)? -> Is spiritual growth about transcending or ignoring the mind?

Personally I tend to think karma does not really impede spiritual growth - as long as it does not make us regress into bitterness for instance. Bad karma is just the past making itself felt in the present. How we deal with it now determines our spirituality, in some ways. I suppose that is part of my definition of karma.

As for gay people being spiritual or not - I don't think being gay, or an artist, is indicative of spirituality. Though artists do have a more than average tendency to listen to their inner selves. But then, so do psychotherapists. Listening to your inner self does not mean being master of it. See the amount of drug-abuse among artists and such.

Again: just some thoughts.
Katinka

   Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 13:41:46 -0800
   From: "nigel griffiths"
Subject: RE: Re: RE: mentally challenged

A good question. People have been asking for centuries about the differences between and mind and spirit. There is a school of thought that sees the mind & memory as part of the animal body and
the spirit as the import from a different dimension.

In this context, behind a mechanically defective mind (ie a mentally challenged person) can be a perfect spirit being challenged to develop itself to higher levels in a different way.

At the end of the day I suppose we have to get down to  heavy definitions of what exactly we mean by all these terms but it is an  interesting debate. I think Blavatsky saw it as spirits entering the
bodies controlled by animal (ie human) minds and the loss of spirituality was the dominance of the mind and consciousness over the  undelying spirit (you know more about this than I do). Perhaps if we get  outside our minds, we suddenly find true intelligence/wisdom instead of what we generally regard as mental sophistication, or is that pushing it too far?

n.


>-----Original Message-----
>From: Katinka Hesselink
>Sent: Monday, February 24, 2003 12:39 AM
>To: Young-Theosophists@yahoogroups.com
>Subject: [Young Theosophists] Re: RE: mentally challenged

Hi Nigel and others,

Does this mean we should totally give up our minds in order to be more spiritual?

Katinka

   Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 03:16:39 -0800 (PST)
   From: Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: mentally challenged

Hi Nigel,

Wow, how you complicate things for me! How did Blavatsky see it? The standard theosophical answer would be, I guess, that buddhi isn't accessable without manas, because manas is the vehicle of buddhi. This is how I've been taught - not sure how much of that is HPB.

In order for us to become angels, or gods, or dhyani chohans, we have to pass the stage where we are totally isolated from the universe because our minds get in the way. Another way of saying this is that human beings are the most individualised in the world. Now, this is also a way of saying that other beings are more spiritual, whether below us on the scale of evolution, or above us - because they all have more of a connection to the All. Which is I suppose where the idea comes from that mentally challenged people (and i do mean handicapped people) are more spiritual.
 
Still, if a mentally handicapped person has a physical vehicle that just does not allow for manas to develop much, that means they will have to come back and learn that lesson another lifetime. Evolutionary speaking I guess that puts them on a par with animals.

Your questions below are very difficult - they go to the rounds and races, relationship between the seven aspects of consciousness (atma, buddhi, etc.) - the above is merely part of how I understand it. It is however, the part I can, at this moment put into words.

Katinka
=====
Katinka Hesselink
-----------------------------
-Those who observe, learn, a whole life long.
-Wie observeert, leert , een heel leven lang.
-----------------------------
http://www.katinkahesselink.net

   Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 12:51:45 -0800
   From: "nigel griffiths"
Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: mentally challenged

Thanks Katinka,
A highly illuminating answer. I bow to your superior knowledge. This subject indeed gets very deep very quickly.

At the back of my mind is the Celtic viewpoint of reincarnation and spirits (I come from Wales) which tends to see the spirit in everything, from man, down through animals, ants, rocks and soil down to the smallest atom and beyond. The rest is about levels of consciouness right up to our intellectually clever human beings. I'll do a bit of research see what the druids say.

catch ya later.

nigel

   Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 12:28:32 -0000
   From: "Katinka Hesselink
Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: mentally challenged

Hm, being bowed to is always nice, obviously.

The tricky bit is, and I don't think I emphasized this in my previous mail is that in a sense we are all divine - yet it matters which aspects of the divine get "mastered" or actualised or something. Human beings have the unique opportunity to actualize all levels. So potentially - says HPB - we are higher than the gods. yet, if the vehicle is not functioning properly - we can't actualize as much. I suppose that is the case with mentally handicapped people. Though perhaps the potential is still there, only harder to find. I don't know.

(weird to be online at the same time. I'm used to US-correspondents who respond some 10 hours after I write, not within the hour. :) )

Katinka